CONCORD — By a unanimous vote the House Commerce Committee has scuttled a bill backed by the Travel Technology Association, which represents Airbnb, FlipKey, HomeAway, Expedia and Priceline, that would have forbidden municipalities from prohibiting short-term and vacation rentals and instead recommended convening a committee to study the taxation and regulation of short-term and vacation rentals.
In New Hampshire, Airbnb lists nearly 1,000 rentals according to Airdna, a website that tracks the company's rentals, In the Lakes Region, there are 15 listings in Alton, 10 in Center Harbor, 29 in Gilford, 52 in Laconia, 27 in Meredith, 36 in Moultonborough, 35 in Wolfeboro and 50 in Bristol.
House 654 as introduced was modeled on legislation enacted in Arizona and begins by noting that the growing practice of homeowners offering residential and investment for rent through internet platforms "is encountering resistance resistance from many governments, in the form of zoning restrictions and prohibitions." While stipulating that municipalities cannot prohibit the practice, the bill would allow them to regulate short-term and vacation rentals to protect public health and safety as well as to ensure that operators remitted the rooms and meals tax.
Mike Somers, president and chief executive officer of the New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that vacation rentals handled by agents, usually realtors, have been commonplace in New Hampshire for years. However, with the advent of Airbnb and similar enterprises, which match renters with landlords directly online, has raised fresh issues, particularly ensuring that operators remit the rooms and meals tax and comply with life safety codes. He said that state and local governments across the country have wrestled with these questions for several years without striking a balance between the right of homeowners to use their property as they wish and the interest of government in ensuring the safety of the public.
Somers offered the example of a commercial bed and breakfast, which is licensed, regulated and inspected, next door to a single mother renting a room in her home. "There is a line to be drawn," he said, "But, we haven't found just where to draw it."
The original bill met with stiff opposition from the New Hampshire Municipal Association, which claimed it was an encroachment on the zoning authority long vested in cities and towns. There are a few examples of the Legislature overriding local control by mandating municipalities allow particular uses, These include manufactured housing, workforce housing and most recently accessory dwelling units, all of which were enacted after much study and debate.
The bill defines a short-term or vacation rental as "any individually or collectively owned single-family house or dwelling unit or any unit or group of units in a condominium, cooperative , or timeshare, or owner occupied residential home, that is offered for a fee and for less than 30 consecutive days." In other words, every unit in a condominium complex could be rented on a nightly or weekly basis, much like a hotel, and a municipality would have no authority to designate where such an operation would be located.
A study funded by the American Hotel and Lodging Association and undertaken by the School of Hospitality Management at Penn State University in 2016 found that in a dozen large cities, full-time operators renting multiple units accounted for 40 percent of Airbnb's revenues. However, there is no sign that concentration of the industry has approached this level in New Hampshire.
Last year, the city of Portsmouth drafted a zoning ordinance that would restrict short-term and vacation rental to specific sections of the city as well as require liability insurance, off-street parking and limit occupancy. However, the proposal was tabled, pending the outcome a legislation to license short-term and vacation rentals, which was ultimately shelved.